Zakah is a well-known financial obligation in an Islamic society. It is obligatory on every mentally sound and financially strong adult who has money saved for one year. This extraordinary obligation is so important that it comes after the obligation of Salah.
Without this, a person cannot be considered faithful. The Holy Qur’an explains that those who repented from disbelief and became faithful, establish Salah, and start paying Zakah are brothers in faith and considered part of Muslim society. “But if they repent and establish Salah and pay the Zakah, then they are your brothers in religion” (Al-Qur’an, 9:11).
In reality, these two obligations (Salah and Zakah) are two very important pillars of the religion.
Establishment of Salah indicates that the person is serious about his obligation towards Allah (swt), and his relationship with Allah (swt) is trustworthy. Zakah is an obligation from Allah (swt) towards His creation.
The establishment of Zakah indicates that the person is fully aware of his obligations towards the rights of the servants of Allah (swt); he is serious about his obligation and his relationship with others and is trustworthy. The recognition of these two rights, obligations towards Allah (swt) and obligations towards servants of Allah and fulfilling its rights is Islam.
The one whose relationship with the servants of Allah is on truth, his relationship with Allah (swt) will also be reliable because humans are the best creation of Allah (swt).
However, those individuals who separate Salah and Zakah are considered untrustworthy in their deen according to the fuqaha.
Abdullah ibn Masood (r) has stated, “The one who does not pay Zakah, his Salah is unacceptable” (At Tabarani). The historical statements of Abu Bakr As Siddiq (r) are evident of this correlation between Salah and Zakah.
According to the Qur’an, the obligation of Salah and Zakah are an open declaration of one’s following the religion of Islam; similarly, not paying Zakah is a declaration and practice of kufr and shirk. Allah says in the Qur’an in Surah Sajdah verses 9 and 10, “Woe to the idolaters who do not pay the Zakah and deny the Hereafter.”
Here, the Zakah is not obligatory due to the nature of the verse being revealed in Makkah, two years prior to the obligation of it. However, it was a notable practice to spend in the way of Allah (swt) during the times of the prophets, which is why not accepting this is an act of kufr and shirk.
During the time period of Abu Bakr as Siddiq (r), some Muslims had denied their obligation of Zakah. Abu Bakr had therefore considered this an act of division and dissension. This illustrates his keen insight into the seriousness of the matter, though some of the Sahabah failed to understand his reaction.
Even Umar ibn Al Khattab (r) questioned, “How can you go against these people who believe in the oneness of Allah when it is evident from the sayings of the Prophet, ‘I have been directed to fight against people till they testify that there is no god but Allah. Whoever professes it is granted full protection of his property and life except for a right cause and his (other) affairs rest with Allah?’” His immediate response to such a refutation was the warning that those who paid Zakah in the life of the Prophet (pbuh) and now were refraining from even giving a baby goat, he would wage jihad on them.
Umar ibn Al Khattab and the rest of the companions were then appeased by this decision. The decision taken by these believers was acknowledged by Allah in the Qur’an where He recognized them as true believers.
Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an Surah Anfal, verses 3 and 4, “Who establish regular prayers and spend (freely) out of the gifts We have given them for sustenance. Such in truth are the believers: they have grades of dignity with their Lord, and forgiveness, and generous sustenance.”
Zakah in Shari’ah of the Past
The importance of Zakah in the rulings of Shari’ah and those of ibadah (worship) are illustrated in the lifetimes of the previous prophets. In Surah Anbiya, Prophet Ibrahim (a) and his son Prophet Ishaq (a) as well as grandson Prophet Yaqub (a) were referred to when Allah said in verse 73, “And We made them leaders, guiding (men) by Our Command, and We sent them inspiration to do good deeds, to establish regular prayers, and to practice regular charity; and they constantly served Us (and Us only).”
The group that makes up the largest population on earth is the group of followers of Prophet Isa (a), Christians. In their religion, Salah and Zakah are an obligation due to the fact that without Zakah their rulings of worship would be incomplete.
When Prophet Isa’s mother Maryam (a) was accused during the questioning of Baby Isa, she merely pointed to the baby, who responded in Surah Maryam, verses 30 and 31: “He said: “I am indeed a servant of Allah: He has given me revelation and made me a prophet. And He has made me blessed wherever I am, and has enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I live.” The importance of Zakah is to such an extent that without it no act of worship is accepted.
Consequences of Those who Refuse to Pay Zakah
The extreme desire for worldly possessions and love of wealth, miserliness, and tightfistedness are the signs of the worst form of spiritual disease. The negative effects of these signs destroy the human character. Succor from this negative cycle is Zakah and charity.
Allah (swt) when speaking to the Prophet guides him by saying, “Of their goods, take alms, so you might purify and sanctify them; and pray on their behalf. Verily your prayers are a source of security for them: And Allah is One Who hears and knows” (Al-Qur’an, 9:103).
However, the unfortunate who does not heed this warning and does not pay Zakah, Allah (swt) has revealed a severe punishment and torment as another warning in the Qur’an. “O you who believe! There are indeed many among the priests and anchorites, who in Falsehood devour the substance of men and hinder (them) from the way of Allah.
And there are those who buy gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah: announce unto them a most grievous penalty.
On the Day when heat will be produced out of that (wealth) in the fire of Hell, and with it will be branded their foreheads, their flanks, and their backs—”This is the (treasure) which you buried for yourselves: taste you, then, the (treasures) you buried!” (Al-Qur’an, 9:34, 35).
Abdullah ibn Umar (r) was asked what the word “kanz” meant in this verse to which he replied that it is wealth on which Zakah had not been paid. After paying Zakah, the wealth that is left is good, albeit jewelry, cash, or other forms of wealth. Taking advantage of this is a favor from Allah (swt), whereas the money on which Zakah is not paid brings punishment upon punishment.
Abu Hurairah (r) narrated that the Prophet (pbuh) said, “Whoever is given wealth by God and does not pay the Zakah due thereupon shall find that on the Day of Arising it is made to appear to him as a hairless snake with two black specks, which chains him, and then seizes him by his jaw and says, ‘I am your wealth! I am your treasure!’” Then he recited the verse “Let not those who are miserly with what God has given them of His bounty think that this is good for them. Rather, it is bad for them. That which they withhold shall be hung around their necks on the Day of Arising” (Al-Qur’an, 3:180).
These clear warnings require that our Muslim society become generous, open hearted, look after the poor, facilitate aid to those in need, and be sensitive to their needs.
We must ourselves be open to fulfilling the needs of our fellow human beings and encourage others to do the same.
Biographers of Abu Hurairah have noted that he would mention the obligation of Zakah upon seeing a group of people gathered together.
You will find that many people sincerely pay close attention to their Salah, dhikr, reciting Qur’an, and offering of extra deeds, which is a very important factor of their lives.
However, there seems be a lack of focus on their Zakah and charity, which is required by Allah (swt) and the Prophet (pbuh).
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